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12 United Awards To Book Before the Big Devaluation on February 1, 2014

by on January 21, 2014 · 44 comments

in star alliance, Top 10, United

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Probably the most dreaded day of 2014 is quickly closing in – February 1 marks the day that United will devalue its award chart. Though many awards on United itself are going up, the airline is also raising most partner awards, with some skyrocketing over 60%! Many of you with United miles to burn have been writing in non-stop asking about redemptions, so I thought I’d put together this list of awards you might want to consider booking sooner rather than later before both the devaluation and award space dries up for the rest of 2014 as everyone scrambles with last-minute redemptions.

One thing to note is that United does not re-price awards if you keep the same routing and just change dates, so you can change the dates on awards for free and maintain the pre-devaluation award levels.

My seat, 84C.

The Lufthansa First Class seat aboard the 747 comes with a recliner and a bed!

1. Lufthansa First Class: One of the nicest commerical first class products in the sky, Lufthansa’s first class is among the best out there – the seat aboard the 747-400 comes with both a recliner and a bed next to it so you have plenty of space to stretch out. Right now, it’ll cost you just 67,500 miles each way from the US to Europe, but after February 1, each way will cost you 110,000 miles! Now, booking Lufthansa first class awards can be tricky, but worth the time if you can nail one down.

That first class award will cost 67,500 miles and $77.50 now, but 110,000 miles after February 1.

That Lufthansa first class award will cost 67,500 miles and $77.50 now, but 110,000 miles after February 1.

You might want to pick close-in dates then use the cancel-rebook option I mention above and hope space opens up closer to your actual travel dates, though it’s a risk.

2. South African Airways Business Class: I love South Africa, but it can be a beast getting there. Though there are a lot of options flying through Europe, that means flying an 8-9 hour flight from the East Coast and then another 11 hours down to Johannesburg or Cape Town. Personally, I’d prefer to fly South African Airways business class, like I did last January, since it flies from Washington Dulles and New York JFK to Johannesburg non-stop (though some JNB-IAD flights do stop in Senegal) even if it’s not the snazziest business class around.

South African Airways business class JFK-Johannesburg-Capetown-Johannesburg-IAD-JFK for only 110,000 Dividend Miles + modest taxes/fees

My South African Airways business class seat.

This redemption is 60,000 miles each way currently, but come February 1, it’ll cost you 80,000 miles – that’s 40,000 more miles roundtrip. Availability can be tight on this route, but not at all impossible.

3. EVA Royal Laurel Class to Taipei and Beyond: EVA joined Star Alliance last year and I actually got the chance to fly its JFK-TPE and TPE-Singapore flights en route to the Maldives. I booked the award because I wanted to experience it’s much-touted Royal Laurel business class, and I really loved my experience. More than that, I loved that you can book an award to North Asia in business class for just 60,000 miles each way (my own redemption was also 60,000 miles, but to South Asia as a destination).

Lie back and sleep in EVA's Royal Laurel Class.

EVA’s Royal Laurel Class.

After February 1, this partner award will require 80,000 miles each way – a 33% jump! Luckily, there seems to be pretty decent availability not only on the JFK-TPE route, but also from EVA’s other North American destinations of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver – like this flight from LAX in June.

Screen shot 2014-01-20 at 4.51.28 PMJust be sure you’re on a new 777-300ER to experience Royal Laurel.

ANA's First Class Squares look amazing.

ANA’s First Class Squares look amazing.

4. ANA First Class Square Suites: Some of ANA’s 777-300′s feature its new first class suites, which are spacious square pods with large entertainment monitors, plenty of storage and all the plugs you could want. I’m considering trying it out, and United miles are a great way to do so pre-devaluation because the airline doesn’t charge enormous surcharges when booking ANA awards like ANA does when you use its own miles on its own flights. It can be hard to find availability with any regularity, especially when booking a few months out, but not impossible, and you might want to spend some time looking because now this award from New York to Tokyo will require 67,500 miles each way, but after February 1, it’ll be 110,000 miles.

5. Singapore Airlines to the Maldives: It can be a bit tough to find an award to the Maldives, but one of the best options out there is Singapore Airlines, like I flew myself in November on this route. Remember, you can’t search Singapore award space on United.com, but ANA still displays it. Singapore is really tight on premium award space for partners, and releases very little, so chances are you’ll have to get to Singapore on another carrier, but on regional flights from Singapore, like the one to Male, there’s usually open seats that aren’t too difficult to search.

You have to use ANA to search Singapore awards, but there's decent availability on regional routes.

You have to use ANA to search Singapore awards, but there’s decent availability on regional routes.

The reason this might be a good idea to book now is that it will only cost you 65,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 120,000 in business, but after February 1, it’ll be 80,000 and 160,000 respectively.

6. United to Australia: Although it’s probably more fun to fly Virgin Australia or Qantas to the land down under, United is actually displaying quite a bit of availability in premium classes to Australia over the coming months and they service the route with their new BusinessFirst and Global First seats, so it should be at least comfortable if not luxurious. In fact, I recently booked myself a first class roundtrip awards there and plan to travel next month.

Finding premium award seats on United to Australia isn't as hard as you might think.

Finding premium award seats on United to Australia isn’t as hard as you might think.

The not-totally-bad news is, business class redemptions will go up just 5,000 miles in each direction post-devaluation, though first class remains the same. However, I do expect there to be less availability as folks snap up this award space to avoid flying much more expensive partners.

7. Ethiopian Airlines 787: It might seem like an odd award, but I’m actually excited to try out Ethiopian Airlines’ 787 service. The airline flies this craft on its Washington Dulles-Addis Ababa route, which takes over 14 hours, giving me a good chance to find out if the new plane really does make longer flights more comfortable.

Pre-devaluation, it’ll cost 60,000 miles each way, but post-devaluation, it’s 80,000 miles each way.

I'm thinking of flying Air Canada's 787 from Toronto to Tel Aviv.

I’m thinking of flying Air Canada’s 787 from Toronto to Tel Aviv.

8. Air Canada 787 Business Class: Air Canada is getting its Dreamliners and putting them into service this summer on routes from Toronto to Tokyo Haneda and Tel Aviv. The new business class cabin looks beautiful, so I’m pondering a jaunt to the Middle East to test it out. Only I need to do it before the devaluation because right now it’ll only cost me 60,000 miles each way instead of a 25% bump of 80,000 miles. Right now I’ve only found availability in Economy in the months following the July launch, but I’m going to keep my eye on it.

I'd like to fly Turkish Airlines' new business class.

I’d like to fly Turkish Airlines’ new business class.

9. Turkish Airlines Business Class: Turkish Airlines has been pulling out all the stops in a global campaign lately, and I must say, their lie-flat business class and Istanbul lounges look great, so I wouldn’t mind trying them out myself. All the airline’s 777-300′s and A330-300′s have it, so it’s just a matter of finding those aircraft on routes that service the US – or consider flying Turkish to Istanbul and connecting to other points in the Middle East, Asia or Africa from there.

You don't have much longer to snag 50,000-mile business class seats on Turkish Airlines.

You don’t have much longer to snag 50,000-mile business class seats on Turkish Airlines.

Right now, you can get from the US to Istanbul for 50,000 miles each way in business class, but February 1, it’ll cost you 70,000 miles – a 40% jump – so book soon! Note, there seems to be much better availability from Washington Dulles Istanbul than New York JFK.

10. US Airways Awards: It might seem kind of crazy, but if you want to book US Airways awards using your United miles, you better do so now because on March 31st they leave Star Alliance and will no longer be bookable.

US Airways' Envoy Suite is among the top premium products offered by US airlines.

US Airways’ Envoy Suite is among the top premium products offered by US airlines.

One type of award I’d suggest looking at are business class awards to Europe in US Airways’ flagship Envoy seats since they’re rated very highly and there is availability from non-United hubs to plenty of destinations throughout Europe. Now that award will cost you 50,000 miles each way, but next month, it’ll shoot up to 70,000 miles each way!

This Charlotte-Paris flight will cost 70K after February 1.

This Charlotte-Paris flight will cost 70K after February 1.

 

11. Thai Airways First Class: TPG Managing Editor Eric had a great experience aboard Thai’s A380 first class, and any airline that serves Dom Perignon is okay in my book. Though availability to/from the US is a bit hard to navigate since the airline only operates flights to North America via other stops in Asia or Europe, if you’re thinking of combining it with a European stopover, you might take a page from Eric’s book and plan an award that includes Europe and then carries on to Bangkok for 70,000 miles each way in first class rather than the 130,000 miles each way it will cost you after February – an 85% increase!

Tacking on Thai Airways first class from Frankfurt adds just 2,500 miles to the redemption...for now.

Tacking on Thai Airways first class from Frankfurt adds just 2,500 miles to the redemption…for now.

12. Intra-European Awards: One great use of United miles is to use them to book awards on expensive routes within Europe by leveraging partners like Lufthansa, SWISS and even Aegean. Right now, you can fly intra-Europe for 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 40,000 miles in business. Next month, though, those awards will be 30,000 and 60,000 miles respectively.

These Aegean flights will cost you a lot more starting next month.

These Aegean flights will cost you a lot more starting next month.

One great example is flying Aegean from London to Athens – a 3.5-hour flight you can get for 25,000 miles in coach or 40,000 in business class. There’s no way I’d spend 60,000 miles for intra-European business class after February 1, though.

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  • RakSiam

    Any idea why ANA is taking so long to roll out their new product? And do they have a timetable to get it across the fleet? I’m booked in F from NRT-IAD in late October. NH’s website still shows the old product on this route. For F it might not be a huge deal, but their old C class is way behind the times.

  • dean

    I’ve been trying to book Australia all month and see zero availability, even when waiting til midnight for the new day to open up. (trying to be there for NYE). Not even Saver/Standard award tickets in Economy post 16th. To me, it seems United is hiding/withholding inventory until the Feb 1st devaluation…

    Thoughts?

  • dean

    …Saver in First/Biz, that is ;)

  • Ramsey

    Will united also change its award levels for booking non-air awards, like hotel rooms and car rentals?

  • j pile

    I tried to book with South African Airways to no avail, no biz class seats on Eithiopian Airways, ended up getting biz class out of FRA on Lufthansa. Actually happy with this since it will break up the flight to SA, get to fly the A380 in biz class which is very exciting. Booked our trip for two on rewards with Southwest to Philly, US Air to FRA, Lufthansa to JNB. International fees add up but well worth the effort to use hard earned pts to win a once in a lifetime trip with a long time friend!

  • Justin

    We’re booked on a SA Saver in Envoy to Scotland but wife’s flying a day earlier than I am. I’m guessing we won’t be able to change to anything other than SA flights after US bails to OW. Would you recommend we only change for Lufthansa first if available or would you fly United metal? We’re thinking it may just make sense to stay on the US flights.

  • Dan

    Obviously this list is based on your opinion/personal experiences, but what about Asian First Class Suites on their JFK-ICN route? I would take that over Thai First or even ANA First any day

  • Ben

    TPG, you sure about the below? I called United last night and they said they’d re-price the awards even if the only thing that changes is the date. Did I get a mistaken rep?

    United does not re-price awards if you keep the same routing and just
    change dates, so it is very likely you can change the dates on awards
    for free and maintain the pre-devaluation award levels

  • Liz

    Will United change its redemption values for partner flights with Copa Air in Latin America? Right now, you can fly roundtrip business flights within the region for just 40,000 points.

  • Wanderingentrepreneur

    Does the travel have to be BOOKED by Feb 1st or traveled by Feb 1st to beat the devaluation?

  • TrixieSF

    Thanks for the reminder! Just booked Royal Laurel Business class from SFO to BKK… this is going to be a nice trip.

  • Jwt

    Is the South African Airways business seat 180 flat or tilt? Can’t make it out from the photo

  • Ryan K

    Do you know if Round The World tickets are changing?

  • Stirach

    You currently cannot book any Singapore awards on United. None, even in economy. The agents simply don’t see the award space even if it shows on ANA. Spend all week and countless hours on the phone with agents last week in IAH-DME and nothing.

  • MissMiles

    booked

  • mileswhore

    TPG, you might want to double check some of your figures. No doubt you are very experienced in this field, but some of your information is not correct. First, you talk about ANA first class, but the mileage rates you quote aren’t for first class (first class will be 110,000 miles or more, depending on destination) one way).

    Also, per UA insider on Flytertalk, changing just dates will NOT cause a mileage change. See below:

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/21710197-post622.html

    Additionally, you speak about UA metal flying to Australia and you should note that first class will NOT go up.

  • thepointsguy

    Asiana is another great product to try. I haven’t flown it myself, but have heard good things

  • thepointsguy

    Interesting.. I had no problem booking my Maldives award in November.

  • thepointsguy

    I have a full review– slightly tilted

  • thepointsguy

    Enjoy the lie-flat seat and Dom!

  • thepointsguy

    Booked

  • thepointsguy

    Not that I have heard, but those change dynamically as it is.. but I haven’t heard of any fundamental changes going on with non-air awards

  • brad

    Can’t decide – i’m finding a routing to europe on a new-style J LHa330, and on the return can either get TK to yyz (and coach connecting but a day more time off and way out of the way) or LH 747-800 to LAX (but then no availability back to seattle so would have to get a separate ticket to get home. Tempted to go with TK because i’ll have had the new j product, but also tempted by the -800 and more time in J in general.

  • BartNY

    #4: Isn’t first class to Tokyo worth 67,500? That’s how much I am paying for my upcoming United JFK-SFO-NRT (business first/global first). Or is the ANA square suite considered a Business class reward? If so, I should switch ASAP!!!

  • Liz

    Hi – a newbie to utilizing points for mileage! Are you finding the partner airlines and booking via the United website or should I be looking elsewhere?

  • italdesign

    Just last week I booked a round trip using United miles that included multiple Singapore segments in business and economy (found on ANA website).

  • thepointsguy

    Yes via united.com

  • Martin

    Since June 19, 2013, United does charge for changing flight dates even if the origin and destination don’t change. Exceptions are made for those with elite status. See http://www.united.com/web/en-US/Content/mileageplus/awards/travel/ticketing.aspx

  • David

    United said they will re-price awards if changes occur to dates after 2/1. EVEN if the origin, destination, and routing stay the same. I asked UA this very specific question on their twitter a while back with an example of SFO-HKG. You can look it up, its still public on their twitter.

    “@united Question: If I book an SFO>HKG RT award before 2/1 but make a change to the return date after 2/1, do I have to pay more miles?”

    “Hi you change after the 2/1 there will be additional miles required. Thanks. ^JP”

    Very confusing.. who is right? The Flyertalk thread is from Nov whereas my tweet was beginning of Jan 2014.

  • Richard

    Leveraged miles and 120,000 miles later… USA->DOH->ATH on Lufthansa, Turkish, Aegean, and United in business. Same trip 40,000 miles more if booked after February 1.

  • WanderingEntrepreneur

    Thank you!

  • Guest

    I was told that you used to be able to change for free but now there would be a $75 change fee.

  • augias

    my friend just did it and said it was the experience of a lifetime! If you can get the award space definitely worth it!!

  • Winelover

    Can I book an LH F award before devaluation and then change the travel date to a later date if there is availability or would I have to pay the higher price if after Feb 1?

  • Dave

    TPG – for #2 SA Ariways.. i cannot find any business class availability at all in September for NYC-JNB or vice-versa. Any tips?

  • Chris

    TPG, please confirm that this statement is actually true: “One thing to note is that United does not re-price awards if you keep the same routing and just change dates”
    Thanks!

  • Betsy

    I’m new to this…could you clarify the change date process. Currently I can get a first saver to Thailand this fall but would want to change the date for travel Winter 2015 (no awards released yet). Is it contingent upon award availability or can I just book the award for fall now and change the date as it gets closer? Would be more than happy to pay the $75 fee for ability to do so but don’t want to get locked out and then have to redeposit miles for $200. Thanks.

  • Erin

    Will points be going up for upgrades as well? For instance, if I purchase a one way upgradable fare to Europe from ORD, I believe it will currently cost me 15k miles and $500 (in addition to the fare). Will that still be the case after 2/1/14?

  • Ncsam

    Could you clarify what this means?

    Tacking on Thai Airways first class from Frankfurt adds just 2,500 miles to the redemption…for now.

  • tt

    Havent tried the Suites – got the old seat – and the service is great but id give an edge to Thai for the end-to-end experience

  • crimsonablue

    Even after the devaluation, UA still has one of the cheapest redemption award charts – pretty much everybody else has fuel surcharges. In pure points, they’re within 10-15k in J compared to other major programs except Avianca

    To Asia:

    UA is 160k in partner J, 240k in partner F, no surcharges on anything

    Aeroplan is 150k in J, 210k in F, surcharges on ANA/Asiana/AC for Asia

    ANA is distance based, which adds a fair bit since you’re east coast (and surcharges on all)

    Miles & More is 135k in J, 210k in F, surcharges on all airlines

    SQ Krisflyer is 170k on SQ J (195k on Star J), 220k SQ F (225k on Star F) to East Coast, plus fuel surcharges

  • Sean

    Dates changes don’t really matter, because if you book before Feb 1. 2014 you have to complete travel on that ticket within 1 year. So I haven’t found a way to beat the devaluation for a ticket to be flown March 2015. Any ideas?

  • SG

    Can you Book on Feb1 itself, or do you have to book on Jan31 to beat the deadline?

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